Tag Archives: Dance Source Houston

Putting the FUN in arts fundraising

Andrea Dawn Shelly and Spencer Gavin Hering of iMEE Photography by Alberto Serra

UpdateDance Source Houston is the newest member of the Houston arts community to go the way of crowdfunding with their Indiegogo campaign for Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance.  The show goes down at Miller Outdoor Theatre on Sept. 24 & 26,  but they could use the cash now.  I Just sent them some of mine and I get a picnic as a perk.  Nice!  Amy Ell Vault and NobleMotion Dance also had successful campaigns.  Stay tuned for Alex Luster’s campaign for his street act documentary, Stick ‘Em Up.

Jerry Ochoa of Two Star Symphony reports:  “Our Indiegogo campaign was a success, exceeding our $7000 target (final total = $7220) with days left before the campaign deadline. We spent the next 7 weeks in the KUHF Frank Geary studio with engineer Todd Hulslander and came out with the finished album Titus Andronicus. For comparison, the most time we had ever spent recording an album before this was 2 days in the studio, from start to finish.”  Two Star held a swell CD launch party at Divergence Music & Arts too, along with fantastic reviews.

It gave me great joy to meet Jenalia Moreno and see her film Stitched at the MFAH earlier this summer.  Moreno reports Stitched has been entered in 29 film festivals.  “But my real show season begins Tuesday, when I show the film at a Knoxville quilt guild,” says Moreno. ” I have almost every weekend booked between now and Dec. 4.  On Friday & Saturday the film shows at a quilt show in Stafford. Stitched will be aired on local PBS on Monday, Sept. 19 at 7 pm. The film will be shown in Newark, Chicago, DC, Maryland and Galway, Ireland. In Houston, we are showing it at 8 am Nov. 3 & 10:30 am Nov. 5 at the quilt show in the GRB. We show it again at 2 pm Dec. 3 at the Houston Public Library downtown. ”

Katie Pearl and Lisa d’Amour had tremendous success with How to Build a Forest. You can catch D”Amour’s Anna Bella Eema at Catastrophic Theatre on Dec. 2.

Finally, don’t make a move without checking out Spacetaker’s handy crowdfunding tips.

Reprinted from Culturemap.

Only 22 days to go. Act now. Send your cash. No, I’m not selling a used car, but a chance to finance Two Star Symphony’s recording its Titus Andronicus score created for Dominic Walsh Dance Theater using IndieGoGo, a crowd-funding platform.

For $500 you make the “lover” level, where Houston’s beloved indie band comes to your house. I saw Two Star perform in Walsh’s Titus. They were terrific, as was the score, so this a worthy effort to ensure we are going to be able to hear this wonderful music again.

Where’s the “fun” in fundraising? It’s certainly not in the heap of letters from various artistic directors stacked up in the Bermuda triangle zone of my office. There are new kids in town when it comes to artists collecting bucks for their projects and they go by the names of Kickstarter, IndieGoGoCrowdrise, RocketHub, and United States Artists, to mention a few.

Are these efforts to democratize fundraising, leveraging social media and enlisting campaign strategies to make those elaborate paper pleas for cash a thing of the past?

Let’s find out.

Two Star preferred IndieGoGo’s approach. The troupe proved a huge hit at last year’s TEDx Houston and are known for the classic film scores it performs at Discovery Green. Soon, the band heads to SXSW for a March 15 show.

“We considered several, and found IndieGoGo had a clean interface,” says Jerry Ochoa, a violinist in the band. “It’s so well laid out, too. I like that we can include testimonials.”

Ochoa first became interested in this type of fundraising from Divergence Vocal Theater  head Misha Penton’s well researched blog post addressing the possibilities for fiscal sponsorship. The group’s IndieGoGo page is remarkably comprehensive: you get the pitch, the idea of who they are, along with review clips and a video. Perks include a special cuddle offer for any angels who want to donate $10,000. Because Two Star is raising money for a recording, any amount would be a help.

Dianne Debicella, program director fiscal sponsorship at Fractured Atlas, has her eye on this trend. Fractured Atlas, a New York-based art infrastructure organization, offers fiscal sponsorship, its own fundraising platform and a special partnership with IndieGoGo, which allows donors to take a tax deduction.

“Most of these platforms are for profit companies,” Debicella says.

Big goals, big results

She’s right, Kickstarter raised over $20 million for projects so far. This is a growth industry. Debicella, along with IndieGoGo founder Danae Ringelmann, will be presenting Fundraising in a Box: Crowdsourcing Microgrants at SXSW’s Interactive and a Fiscal Sponsorship & Crowdfunding Info Session on March 10 at Spacetaker (a new member of Fractured Atlas’ Open Arts Network).

Ringlemann presented a complelling portrait of IndieGoGo’s story recently at a SWAMP workshop for filmmakers. Compelling? Fundraising? Yes, that’s the point.

Your project has meaning to you and your fan base, which wants to be a part of the things they love.

“People contribute to people, not just ideas,” says Ringlemann, who shared her own moving epiphany about the disappointment of old school fundraising.

Not all platforms are alike. All you need is an idea at IndieGoGo, but they want you to put in some elbow grease with something they call DIWO (Do it with Others), which means you do your part using the integrated social media tools. That’s the best way to end up on their homepage orblog. Houston filmmakers Jenalia Moreno and Nancy Sarnoff want to finish their documentary Stitched, which offers a glimpse of the lives of competitive quilt makers at the 2010 Houston Quilt Show. After a fully funded campaign on Kickstarter, they are giving IndieGoGo a go.

“You have to have your tentacles everywhere,” says Moreno, who learned a lot in the first go around.

She suggests three key tips for success: Ask for a realistic amount of money; get your trailer out there; and offer cool gifts. Morena has found the process a great way to connect to fans.

“They leave comments on the site,” she says. “And there’s nothing more exciting than getting an e-mail that we have received $500 from a complete stranger.”

The team has also applied for grants and is considering a fundraising event. “It’s hard to plan a party and edit a movie at the same time,” Moreno adds.

Kickstarter welcomes art projects as well as the creative end of food, design, journalism, comics, fashion, games and technology. It’s not a place for causes or business start ups. With Kickstarter you only get the money if you meet your target goal. That way you are not committed to a project you don’t have the funds for. For anyone who has received a grant for way less than you asked for, this is good news. If a little bit of money is better than nothing, it’s not for you.

United States Artists‘ name says it all. It’s an arts only operation and considerably more selective. Artists must be recipients of their USA Project Partners or other recognized organizations.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, currently in residence at the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts funded red, black and GREEN, a bluesslated for a fall performance in Houston. Katie Pearl and Lisa D’Amour, of the Obie-Award winning team PearlDamour, just wrapped up a successful campaign for a new installation of their collaborative work with Shawn HallHow to Build a Forest, which was performed as a work-in- progress at the Mitchell Center.

Inspired by the loss of 100 trees on D’Amour’s New Orleans family home, the piece entails the assembling and disassembling of a simulated forest over an eight-hour time shift. I found the piece captivating, and can’t wait to see where it’s going next.

As recipients of a Creative Capital Award, United States Artists was a logical choice. “It’s brand new. There’s only 200 projects instead of 14,000, and it’s artist focused,” says D’Amour, whose play Anna Bella Eema is on Catastrophic Theatre’s 2011 season.

Pearl and D’Amour deliver a direct but warm talk about their project. “They really encourage a personal approach,” Pearl says.

As for structuring the campaign, they did their homework. “Shorter campaigns are more successful,” Pearl says. “Also, it allows us to have an ending, so we can go back and focus on the piece. It’s really helped light a fire under us.”

The Celeb Factor

Crowdrise has the uber cool Edward Norton behind it and, like other platforms, is wide open. You can raise $50 for a bus ticket. With a tagline of “If you don’t give back no one will like you,” it’s the most hilarious of the pack too. I got an e-mail reading, “Thanks for signing up and because you’re the 709th person within the past hour to create an account we’re sending you a special Crowdrise shower cap. That’s actually not true but it would be great if it were.”

When I raise funds for The Arthropologist: The Movie, I am going to use them for the funny factor. I want to chuckle while I beg for bucks. Nel Shelby, a leading New York-based dance videographer, chose Crowdriseto raise funds for her film Where Women Don’t Dance, which tells the story of Turkish choreographer Nejla Y. Yatkin.

“It just seemed fun to follow the trend and share our project in an authentic way,” Shelby says. “I loved setting up my page on Crowdrise, they have such a wit about them and it made me feel a bit more casual about writing about my film. You do have to market your page and really get it out there so people know what you are up to.”

According to Debicella and Ringlemann, it’s a reap what you sow situation. “The biggest misconception is that you just put your page up and wait. It sounds easy,” Debicella says. “Successful campaigns involve managing your page every day. Like any fundraising effort, it’s work.”

Just maybe, it’s fun too.

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Your Body: Too Loud

The Houston Met; Photo by Ben Doyle, Runaway Productions LLC

Update: What did you say? Turn it down people.  Chances are you are listening to music at too high a volume or too close to the speakers.  Since it’s really hard get a new set of ears it’s best to take care of those babies.  Sure, we want dance to have a buzz, but not in our ears.

Should you find yourself in Portland, Oregon, you can walk though a giant ear at Oregon Museum of  Science & Industry’s Dangerous Decibels exhibit or learn everything you need to know at the Dangerous Decibels web site.

You can watch The Houston MET, who inspired this article,  perform at Dance Source Houston’s Weekend of  Texas Contemporary Dance on Sept. 23 & 24 at Miller Outdoor Theatre.  The dancing may be loud but the music will be just right. And remember, never leave home without a pair of ear plugs.  You never know when loudness will strike.

Reprinted from Dance Magazine.

A rehearsal of Braham Logan Crane’s History, set to Angela Ai’s pulsing music, makes an impact. The sheer intensity of the dancing at Houston Metropolitan Dance seems to reflect Crane’s high-octane choreography and the music’s blasting volume. “We wanted it loud so we could feel Ai’s emotions,” says Marlana Walsh, the company’s managing director. The volume helps the dancers mirror the music’s vitality. Few realize that prolonged exposure to high decibels may jeopardize their hearing.

Unlike knees and hips, ears are not replaceable. Exposure to high volumes over time will cause hearing loss, something dancers need to think about before turning up their iPods or rehearsal volume. Recent research at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary suggests that damage to hearing continues long after the noise has stopped. The sooner you protect your ears, the better chance you have of avoiding cumulative damage.

William Hal Martin, Ph.D., a professor of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) at Oregon Health & Science University, isn’t surprised that dancers like to pump up the volume during rehearsal. “The vibrations caused by sound creates a tremendously sensual experience,” he says. “Our bodies are covered with touch receptors that let the brain know when something is in contact with our skin. Sound waves from high decibel levels stimulate those same sensors all over our bodies. We not only hear loud music, we feel it all over. That’s why it’s so hard to sit still when the music is blasting—it drives us all to dance.”

Volume and duration make the greatest impact on hearing loss; the type of earphone you use makes no difference. The higher the decibels, the less safely you can listen. Be wary of sounds over 85 decibels. Sure, you can go to RadioShack and get yourself a decibel meter to check the safety of your rehearsal volume, but you don’t have to. There’s a simple way of telling if the music is too loud: if you have to raise your voice to be heard. To get a sense of the decibels around you, normal speech is about 65. Rock concerts run at about 110 to 120 decibels, and a gunshot is 160 decibels. “Sounds above 130 decibels cause immediate and permanent damage, typically starting in the high-frequency area of the ear,” says Martin.

With personal listening devices like iPods and cell phones, people don’t realize how far up they have turned the volume. Ackland Jones, an audiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, points to research suggesting that prolonged use of these devices poses a hearing risk. “Your iPod is capable of 110 decibels,” says Jones. “Use common sense.  If the sound is shaking the whole car, it’s too loud. Keep in mind that sounds don’t have to be painful to do damage.” If you have to remove your earbud to hear someone, you are over the line.

Audiologists recommend that if you can’t turn it down, move away from the sound source or use hearing protection. Dancer and percussionist Stephanie Marshall can’t escape the booming percussion when she’s onstage in the off-Broadway hit Stomp. After Marshall noticed a sensitivity in her ears with high frequencies, she had her hearing tested. “The audiologist suggested earplugs, which I now wear during the second half of the show, especially during the number when we are smashing metallic trash cans,” says Marshall.

Foam and flange earplugs are readily available at drugstores. They come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. “The best earplug is the one that is comfortable and easy to use so you will actually use it,” says Martin. “Size is important.  If they don’t fit, they will work as well as a screen door on a submarine.”

Most ears experience some temporary hearing loss periodically. That’s why after a rock concert, sounds may seem dull, like you are underwater. Permanent hearing loss tends to be gradual. Martin describes the permanent damage to the ear cell hairs as akin to a lawn. “If a crowd walks across the lawn once, it may flatten the grass, but much of it will recover. But if a person walks back and forth on the same stretch day after day, the grass will die and not grow back.  An extra layer of safety like earplugs is worth the investment.”

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A Day of Dance: 24 at Jacob’s Pillow

Jodi Melnick and David Neumann in July; photo Cherylynn Tsushima

If a tree could take a bow,  it would most likely happen at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  Perhaps it did.  Read on.

My summer travels began and ended at Jacob’s Pillow, the best place I know to dance binge while enjoying the great outdoors. The day began with the natural high I get from seeing Pillow dance banners lining Route 20. This thrills me every time. Why don’t we do this more?

Trisha Brown Dance Company in Set and Reset; photo Julieta Cervantes

Trisha Brown Dance Company celebrated its 40th anniversary with a program spanning several decades, from the freshly minted les Yeux et l’ame to the 1973 witty classic Spanish Dance. It was Brown’s 1993 Set and Reset, with sets and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg and music by Laurie Anderson, that reminded me how deeply Brown’s vocabulary is engrained in my postmodern generation. Forming and un-forming, taking shape and letting it dissipate, sculpting space with a profound nuance, these are the characteristics of Brown’s wonderfully idiosyncratic style, all of which were in full evidence in this set of works. Yet, embedded in this sea of flow is a compelling palette of exquisite detail. It’s truly extraordinary that such richly textured movement can have such a fleeting feel.  Shape sans permanence, that’s Brown’s gift to us.

Jodi Melnick in Fanfare; photo Cherylynn Tsushima

What a set of dreamy movers in the pairing of David Neumann and Jodi Melnick , who teamed up at the suggestion of Pillow artistic and executive director Ella Baff.  (Neumann was last seen in Houston dancing the bittersweet A Day of It , his collaboration with Jane Weiner.)  I could watch these two move all day long, they’re that interesting.  Neumann possesses a slippery quality, looking as if a prat fall might occur at any minute, while Melnick’s calculated delicacy evokes a quiet authority.  Her breathtakingly subtle Fanfare combined an intricate gestural language with Burt Barr’s visuals of an electric metal fan.

David Neumann in Tough the Tough (redux); photo Cherylynn Tsushima

Neumann plays mankind, or “Steve,” with a droll wit in Tough the Tough (Redux), which featured an oddly upbeat existentialist text by Will Eno. The magnificent bowing tree comes in during Melnick and Neumann’s gorgeous duet July, where their understated grace seemed to stand in perfect balance to the nobility of the pine tree on full splendid view through the open back doors of the Doris Duke Theater.  In an “only at the Pillow” move,  Melnick and Neumann motioned to the tree at the end.

Maura Keefe, Lisa Neidermeyer, Debra Levine, Jennifer Edwards, Nancy Wozny; Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima

In between performances,  I hopped on a Pillow Talk  “Dancing Online” panel moderated by Scholar Maura Keefe,  sharing the stage with Virtual Pillow project manager Lisa Niedermeyer, and Huffington Post writers Debra Levine and Jennifer Edwards . The consensus is that people are watching and reading dance online, but we need more evidence of it to make a stronger case that we have a solid audience.  So hit those share buttons people, but don’t forget to actually read the piece first. Be less passive, and comment, should you feel the need. Writers alone can’t up the value of web based dance writing,  or dance writing in general.  We need engaged readers, and lots of them.

zoe | juniper in A Crack in Everything; photo Christopher Duggan

Catching up on most of what I missed in the archives took up the in between hours. I caught Jonah BokaerZoe|Juniper, and Big Dance Theater, all of whom have Houston connections in the upcoming season. Zoe | Juniper will be at DiverseWorks on Jan. 19-21, Bokaer will be an artist-in-residence at University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Big Dance Theater’s Paul Lazar directs Suzanne Bocanegra in When a Priest Marries a Witch on Nov. 1, also at the Mitchell Center.

Artist faculty of The School at Jacob's Pillow created work on the dancers, who then performed for the public duringthe free Inside/Out series every Saturday throughout the Festival.

No Pillow experience is complete without a visit to the Inside/Out stage. Nestled between a cherubic four-year old and my brother, each of us enthralled by the mountain view setting and earnest performances from the Jazz /Musical Theater students from all over the globe, it occurred to me that dance is something you can learn to love at any age. What better place to do it than the Pillow?

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.

Trisha Brown Dance Company at Jacob’s Pillow

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The Range is in the Dancing: Program A sets a high standard for Big Range Dance Festival

Jordan Fuchs and Leslie Scates. Photo by Ian Douglas


Every June, I look forward to the dancing at Big Range Dance Festival, now in its ninth year. It’s not that the choreography isn’t noteworthy. Not at all, it’s just that choreographers are often dancing their own works, or finally getting to work with dancers who understand their idiosyncratic qualities. All of this leads to more impassioned, nuanced dancing.


In Program A, this virtuosic phenomenon started with Leslie Scates, who is hands-down the most interesting mover in Houston. I say “mover,” rather than “dancer,” because her range pushes beyond traditional and contemporary vocabulary into a larger inclusion of human movement possibilities. We see gestures we not only recognize but have done, pushing, reaching, pulling away, all there, slighting abstracted, deeply human and immensely communicative. In her duet with another outstanding performer and Assistant Professor at Texas Woman’s UniversityJordan FuchsProgramed Cell Death, the pair created an electric field, where anything can happen, love, repulsion, support and mystery. And anything does happen when Fuchs sticks his hand up Scates’ pants, creating an extension of himself in one sexy/funny section. It’s charged and highly volatile. To call it intense would seem like an a gross understatement. Andy Russ’ bizarre sound score amplified the tension.
Scates is moving into a level of mastery in her performance we rarely see on the contemporary scene. As a regular atLower Left’s renown improvisational dance workshop, March 2 Marfa, she sets a high standard for continuing to train for the work one does. Looking more chiseled and defined, her technical facilities have moved up to compare with her imaginative capabilities. In her solo Suite Female part one, Scates shows a more minimalist side. Set to a movement and sound score by Lower Left’s Rebecca Bryant, the piece lets the audience in on the visceral sometimes brutal edge of improvisational choreography.

On a more traditional front, yet still on the luscious dancing idea, Kristen Frankiewicz and Lindsey Thompson make a gorgeous team for Teresa Chapman’s somber duet, Reach. Chapman successfully taps into these dancers’ voluptuous  generosity. What a joy to watch a choreographer and dancers matched so well. Dancers perform at the top of their abilities when this occurs.

Occupying the impressive out-of towners spot were Matthew Cumbie and Amanda Jackson, who messed with our heads with their racy gender exploration thinking seeing standing feeling object of attention. Crashing into each other with a sassy finesse,the pair employed turbulent partnering, overt sexual gestures and an eye-locking connection to created a terse but steamy climate. Captivating movers both, their raw but slick style exudes a “downtown,” aesthetic, but they hark from Texas Woman’s University. Let’s hope we see more of them.

Erin Reck provided yet another example of creating work for people who can hop on your wavelength in her tense trio Flux, performed by Reck, Brit Wallis and Jacquelyne Boe. Dancers whisper stream of consciousness thoughts to begin the piece, which takes off when they stop and start dancing with a knowing presence. The don’t so much as dance as listen to each other move. A pristine moment towards the end suggests that each senses the space the other just occupied. Nice.

Jennifer Wood, the festival director, lightened the mood with Slam School, a quirky romp alluding to her difficult days in gym class, danced by the home team Suchu Dance. Squeaking tennis shoes were a blast. No way is Tiny Shariffskul going to get picked for the dodge ball team, but she’s adorable while she tries.

Bravo to Wood for continuing the festival at this level. Lighting by Jeremy Choate helped to make each dance distinct. The Big Range continues with Programs B and C through June 18, at Barnvelder, which boasts a swanky Big Range lounge with DJ Justin Klein’s cool music and a nifty light sculpture overhead.

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.

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